Happy Leap Day


There will be 366 days this year. That means one more day of work!

I am spending my leap day in Baltimore for work and I must admit it is not very exciting. At least I am earning extra points and per diem for my troubles!

The week is half over!

Economic Side Affects of Work Travel


I have a lot of spare time on the road. I use some of this time to analyze my budget, spending, and future goals. I am always looking for ways to get a few extra dollars/points/value out of everything. Today I realized that traveling (a lot) for work is saving me money personally too. Here is how:

  • Gas for the car: my car is parked at the airport all week. I am in a rental car with everything paid by the company. No wear and tear on my own car and no gas used. Nice!
  • Food: I get a daily per diem that is mine to keep no matter what I spend on the road. I easily bank half of it every day I travel. Free food + cash!
  • Finding points/miles deals/bonuses online: I have a lot of time to use the internet at night. I usually find myself taking advantage of bonus points and finding great ways to use those points. This pays off big with my vacations and fun weekends!
  • Slightly lower utilities at home: I am not home consuming power, water, and gas. While I am already frugal with those not using them at all saves 100%! Small but still a gain.
  • More Points and Miles for me: Every time I am traveling for work I am earning points all over the place. All work expenses go on my credit card. I keep the points from flights and hotels and car rentals. All of these play a big part in my awesome international trips each year!
All of the above are gains for me. They are part of the reason I like to travel for work. I actually earn more money and other perks when I am on the road. It is less boring overall and I get to do fun international trips more often than if I was not traveling as much. It is all give and take but in my opinion the benefits outweigh the cost at least for now. 

Making the most of time on the road


I am going to be traveling a LOT this month. I only have 1 week at home. I am on the road otherwise.

I am planning on making the most of these trips. I am maximizing points earned on everything as much as I can. I am also trying to maximize my off time so I can get some things done personally while I am away. This week is researching where to go and what to do for Easter Island. I will research Mendoza while in Detroit.

My weeks on the road are going to be a tiring whirlwind of driving all over the place, working, and changing hotels pretty frequently. That means lots of packing and unpacking my bad. I always try to analyze how to pack better and find dead weight in my bag that I don't need to carry. This will be especially true once I get my new bag and test it out!

I could opt to just watch TV or play on the internet in my hotel room each night. I still do that to an extent to rest my brain but also have some sort of small goal to work towards. I can get back home after a trip and feel like I made progress while on the road instead of falling behind. Efficiency is key!

It doesn't matter what city/state/country I am in. I need to always be moving forward on my goals. That is the key to success.

State Tax Refund is IN!


I just checked my checking account and my State of Georgia tax refund is now in my account. That is very fast compared to the last few years. I always have filed my state return via paper mail since e-filing with the software was an extra $19.95 that I did not want to spend. I was fully expecting to have my money next month!

I am glad it came early so I can plan for it's use. My main focus still remains having a very large savings buffer of 1 year of expenses. Most would call this excessive but I call it stress reducing in my everyday life.

I am glad Georgia finally got on board with direct deposit of refunds. It was a pain to wait for 2 months for a paper check in the mail and have to make a trip to the bank. Now I just wait for the deposit and get on with life!

Cutting back on going out is working!


I am finally getting to a point where I am going out a lot less and staying home more. At first boredom was an issue but I am finding ways to fill me time. I am also learning more and earning more points as a result!

That is not to say that I never go out. At this point I am trying to limit my going out to around once per week unless there is some special occasion I must attend. I still have to maintain a social life to be sane.

My budget numbers reflect the success and have certainly slowed the financial bleeding that was taking place for a while. I am cooking more at home and learning a lot more about food which is something I truly enjoy. This frugality paired with raises will lead to more travel opportunities and doing what I truly love to do: see the world!

I am also working on side projects to bring in extra money. Instead of being out spending I will be at home earning. That is a double win! I have to stick to my goal of a 1-year emergency fund if I am ever going to get out of the 9 to 5 rat race. I am moving in the right direction and it feels great.

November 2012 Travel Booked!


It's official: I am going to Guatemala for 2 weeks in November! I just booked my award ticket with American Airlines to use up the majority of my remaining miles with them. I will leave on November 14 and return November 28. I am looking forward to some awesome scenery, people, and of course food!

It cost me 32,500 miles plus $57.60 in taxes. I had a little over 33,000 miles in my account so it worked out great! I fly thru Miami on my way down and Dallas on my way back. My time off from work is confirmed and I am excited to see more of Central America which is my least traveled part of the world. Everything there is inexpensive so I may actually come out ahead financially for that vaacation!

I am not sure exactly what I will do once I am there but I begin phase 2 of my research which is where to go and what to do! I am already looking into the Mayan Tikal ruins, Antigua, and Lago Atitlan. I don't want to try to cram in too much since I will only have 2 weeks. I still need to get a guidebook and do some reading to see what all is available.

Work Travel-thon begins!


This weeks marks the start of a lot of time on the road. I will be traveling every week from now until April 9th except for 1. We are super busy at work and now it is time to hit the road!

I am going to Boston tomorrow for the next 2 days for work. Back home until Sunday then off to Baltimore for all of the following week. The week after that is back home then 2 straight 5-day weeks in Detroit. The last week in March is split between 2 days in Maine then a couple of days home before our spring break trip to Easter Island for vacation. It is going to be a busy month!

I am looking forward to getting a lot of miles banked early. I am hoping for Gold Elite this year and this helps me get there faster. I am still probably looking at a mileage run to make up the difference but if we stay this busy I may not have or if I am close enough make a run for Platinum. This will help me earn more miles from flying to get my balance high enough to cover flights to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014.

It is going to be a long month and hopefully a good one!

Points are another form of currency


To this day I still cringe when I see someone using a debit card--or worse cash--to buy things. I am both thankful and appalled that people can't see that they are leaving money on the table each time they do this. I suppose I have different priorities than most but with the wide variety of programs available people should be earning points for everything!

The best example I have are my trips to Asia in First/Business class for around $100-200 out of pocket. People are always in awe when I say it but I am doing nothing complicated. I simply learn the rules of points programs use them to my advantage. Every time I spend money I make sure my points balance increase somewhere. It is simply a state of mind!

Even if you don't want to travel at all you should at least be using some sort of cash back credit card with no annual fee. If you could save 1% of every dollar you spend with no extra work on your part why wouldn't you? You simply spend like normal using the credit card, fill out a form online, and get a check in the mail. Takes you 5 minutes. Amazing how lazy people have become in this country!

While I am appalled I am also happy. Too many people doing this will create inflation. Too many points "printed" will mean that they eventually will lose value and be less worthwhile for me. It is a double edged sword I suppose. It goes back to the old adage that laziness and convenience equate to money lost. There is a reason why we have so many convenience stores that make a profit every year! The wants of now trump the needs/wants of later. This is America after all...

Investing in quality -- frugal does not mean cheap!


Today I decided to pull the trigger on a $255 piece of luggage. On the surface that sounds expensive. When you get into the details you can see the real value of the transaction. I have looked high and low for the best piece of luggage for my needs and I believe I have found it. We will know soon if I made the right decision!

I admit it was a leap to drop $255 + shipping on a single piece of luggage. I did a LOT of research before buying the bag and found lots of great reviews. I am still not 100% sure it was the right choice. I checked and I can get a refund if I am not happy with it as long as it is new with all the tags on it. I plan on doing a test packing of the bag first.

I travel a lot for work and have long been unhappy with my carry on bag. I started of with a rolling bag which made me quite unhappy. It now collects dust in my closet. I currently use my Targus 17" laptop backpack for work travel. It is heavy when I fully pack it but I prefer it over my rolling bag. I have also used it on a couple of personal trips and it got the job done. The problem is I am still left with sore shoulders and generally unhappy with it.

Now I have discovered the Red Oxx Sky Train. I can carry it with a handle, shoulder strap, or backpack-style straps. It comes with a lifetime warranty for any damage from any source. It also weighs 4 pounds empty which is very light for a carry-on bag of any kind. From the reviews, pictures, and videos I have seen it looks like what I have been searching for all these years traveling.

Even still $255 seems like a lot of money--because it is! Between the ability to return the bag, the no questions asked lifetime warranty, and raving reviews I felt it was worth a try. My risk is $9.44 in shipping to try it out. I can get a full refund if I don't like it for any reason.

Thinking long term I will probably be better off with the new bag. My current Targus bag cost me $60 and has lasted me roughly 4 years. The seams are starting to show wear and could break soon. This sparked my search for a new bag. After reading about many different bags I discovered I hate wheeled bags due to their wasted space and needless added weight. Backpacks are my thing.

If I decide to keep the bag I will be making a big investment. The good news is that it is an investment for life since I can get it replaced any time for any damage what-so-ever. As long as it holds what I usually carry comfortably on my back I am sold. It is legal carry on size so I will never have to check it even if I over pack the bag. I am all but certain I made the right decision.

The moral of the story is that cheap does not equal frugal. A frugal person invests in what will last the longest and end up being the cheapest over the long haul. I can buy several $50 bags as I go and deal with frustrations of damage every few years or I can buy this once and not have to worry about it. Don't be afraid to invest in quality. It always pays off in the end.

Work is exploding!


I am beyond slammed at work. This is a good thing since it means I have a lot of travel coming up. I am already working strategies and promotions to maximize the points from each trip! With yet even more travel coming my way I am getting ready for the onslaught of flying, airport lounges, and hotels more often than my own bed. Points are the motivation to keep me moving!

I just found out that I will most likely be spending 2x 5-day weeks in Detroit (quite possibly my least favorite place on earth) for work. While I have a lot of bad things to say about Detroit I do tend to have my most frugal trips there. Since I don't like it I tend to stay at the hotel most of the time working on other things. This is when I book my trips and find great deals to take advantage of. Spare time!

This now means, if all my travel dates become confirmed, that I will be traveling every week for work except for one until I go to Easter Island on March 31st. That is one long streak! This certainly helps put a dent in my 50,000 mile travel goal for the year to reach Gold status with Delta. I am already clocking in some overtime as a result. Things are busy and busy (hopefully) means more raises!

Valentine's Day


Today is one of those "Hallmark" holidays that I particularly dislike. It is definitely an "America Only" holiday which is just an excuse to jack up prices at restaurants, buy expensive candy, flowers, and cards, and just spend too much in general for no real reason at all. I call these types of holidays "corporate marketing" holidays as they are the only real ones who benefit form them.

Rant aside, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to curtail the financial damage from days such as these. Firstly I stay far, far away from the pre fixe menus at restaurants. They are always a horrible deal and the quality is mediocre at best. Second I wait until after Feb. 14th for flowers and candy. They will be 50% or more cheaper and just as nice. Akin to buying wrapping paper after Christmas is over.

I also select my restaurant based on if I would go there normally. This year we went to Planet Bombay which is a great (and reasonably priced) Indian place in Atlanta. As an added bonus they are part of miles for dining where I get extra United miles based on the dollar amount I spend. We had a very good meal with leftovers for lunch the next day. Now that is a frugal-ish holiday!

Holidays in general make me quite grumpy but this year wasn't so bad. I just have to stick to my beliefs and budget and move on.

Save Big on your Comcast Bill!


I watch my money closely and review all of my utility bills every month for mistakes and rate hikes. Today I found that Comcast jacked my rate up to $62.95 for internet only. WAY too much!

I called customer service and was on hold for quite some time. After speaking to an agent I threatened to cancel my service due to the hike. I was transferred to the retention department who has the power to discount your account to more reasonable levels.

I made my case as I had AT&T U-Verse up on my screen. They were showing a promo price of $29.95 per month for a year then $48 per month thereafter. It was the same speed as my current Comcast connection and a lot cheaper. AT&T was my bargaining chip.

After a brief hold Comcast offered me $42.95 per year. I took it since I did not want the hassle of cancelling them, install/scheduling AT&T, and having to buy a new modem. My price is good for a year and they will retroactively credit my account since the $62.95 already went on my credit card for this month.

A 15-minute phone call saved me $20 per month or $240 for the next 12 months. That is a great use of my time! I get to keep my same service and equipment with no hassle aside from the call for the next year. I did this last year also. I will continue to do this every year if I have too.

Don't pay too much! Don't site back and just accept rate hikes! Make the companies compete for your business. It costs them a lot more than $240 to acquire a new customer. They will do everything within reason to keep you as a customer. Finally there is no contract for my rate adjustment. It is a simple discount.

I got a raise FINALLY!


Today at work it was announced that we all would get a 5% raise. This is a long overdue event as we haven't had one in years. This does give some hope for the future as opposed to before when things were not looking great but we held on. Patience gets rewarded!

My plans for it are to ramp up my savings for the most part. Most of the rest of my budget will not change. I always need to save more money! I can have a small sigh of relief today.

Credit Card for Student Loan Payments!


No I am not implying you would pay your student loans with a credit card. That is risky. Although getting the points for it would be good if you were responsible and paid off the card each month!

This time I am referring to the Citibank ThankYou credit card. You earn ThankYou points that can be spent on gift cards, cash back, and in my case student loan payments! It starts as low as 2500 points = $25 payment. In my case I am getting 50,000 bonus points for meeting $2500 in spending. That will give me a total of 52,500 points or a $525 student loan payment.

This is a good card for someone who is financially responsible and is still paying down their student loans. They get a 1% rebate on all of their normal spending to go towards their student loans. Not doing this (assuming they are responsible with credit cards) is literally leaving free money on the table! Get every penny you are due!

This will cost me $0 to achieve since I will be doing my normal spending and some business travel expenses on the card. This was a no-brainer in my case as one of my latest credit card churns. Knocking off a nice chunk of my student loans for something I have to do anyway for free is smart money! All I have to do is call Citibank when the points are posted and request a check be sent. Easy!

More Work Travel: Getting busy!


I learned today at work that if all goes through I will have quite the busy travel time. I am already booked for Maine and Boston. I still have Baltimore at some unknown time for at least 3 trips. Now looks like I will be adding Salt Lake City, UT and Tennesse and WV/VA/NC and Scranton, PA. That is a LOT of road time!

I am seeing lots of per diem, miles, points, and good times in my future. Of course I will be working a lot but will do my best to throw in some fun stuff when I can. I will be adding new states to my list as a result and seeing some great scenery in Utah. I am assuming more of the same around Scranton as well as West Virginia. It is great to see the country on someone else's dime!

Time to dust off the travel bags. Here we go!

Book One Way Delta Award Tickets...Sort Of


I recently discovered a way to book one way Delta award tickets at half the round trip price. There are a few caveats but it is possible. It involves using Air France/KLM's Flying Blue program. This is a roundabout way to do it but is a good value. I will outline the process here to make it as simple as I can:

  1.  You will need the miles in your Flying Blue account. American Express Memebership Rewards is a transfer partner for them at 1:1. Starwood points can also be transferred to Flying Blue at 1:1.
  2. You have to find low level award space on Delta. I suggest logging into Flying Blue and find your desired flights BEFORE transferring points to them. 
  3. Book the flight you wish on Flying Blue for points + taxes and you are done!
The key here is that Flying Blue simply allowed one way awards on any of their own or partner flights. Delta also does but charges the round trip price anyway. Doing this can save a lot of miles in the future! This is our only option until Delta gets their act together and allows one way awards like the majority of their competition.

Planning meals saves time and money


This year I have gotten a lot better about planning my meals for the week so I save money and time. Firstly I can make a grocery list before going to the store. Second I have less trips to the store saving gas and time. Finally I don't have to worry about what to cook for dinner as it is planned in advance.

I also save money by going to the store less and having less temptations to buy extra stuff not on the list. I also vow to not waste any food like I have in the past so my overall costs go down a lot. I use leftovers for lunches and it gives me some variety at work. The same old sandwich gets old fast when you have it 4-5 times per week.

Planning meals ahead also keeps me from getting lazy and going out or getting take out. If I have a really long day I will still eat the occasional meal out but not nearly as much as I used too. I am cutting my spending way down and forming good habits to pay off in the future.

Taxes are filed!


I have completed my tax return for 2011. I will get just north of $1700 as a refund and the state of Georgia finally allows direct deposit of refunds. All I have to do now is wait for the deposits to hit my account.

Getting a refund is nice. It allows me to get further in my personal financial goals. The refund this year was much higher than I expected. My plans for it now are to help fund a small business idea and also add to savings. The sooner I get the emergency fund ramped up the sooner I can have more freedom in life as a whole.

I used H&R Block software again which cost $20 but saved me hours and a lot of paper and mailing. E-filing is the way to go as it gets you the refund the quickest. Unfortunately e-filing for state costs $20 extra so I elected to paper mail it in. Waiting an extra week or two puts $15 more in my pocket after mailing costs. Worth the wait to me!

Net Worth Updates Ending


I have decided to stop posting my net worth publicly. I will still track it of course but not make it public. It can bring unwanted attention from people as it continues to grow. Privacy is a must these days!

Stay tuned for more interesting posts!